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Sun Gets Tough with J2EE 1.4 Certification

Time is running out for companies that have still not certified their platforms for J2EE v1.4, Sun Microsystems said Wednesday.

While the next incarnation of the enterprise-based operating environment is not due for release until later this summer, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm is cracking down on what it calls "renegade" vendors trying to pass themselves off as J2EE compliant.

For Sun, J2EE 1.4 represents its common language for Web services , which it needs to combat Microsoft's .NET platform.

"We want to tell our partners that licensing is now available and that they should complete their testing as soon as possible," Rick Saletta, group marketing manager, J2EE Licensing at Sun told internetnews.com. With previous versions of J2EE you got various compatibilities. That made it difficult for companies to get engaged. This was particularly a tricky situation with open source, which is why moving forward; we had to separate the licensing from source, from that of the test suite."

Saletta said many of the issues have been already addressed through the Java Community Process (JCP). But Sun has recently run into a couple of snags.

Sun's biggest complaint seems to about open source group JBoss. The Atlanta-based firm makes an open source, standards-compliant, J2EE-based application server implemented in Java. And it seems to have taken off. JBoss boasts its Web application server software has already been downloaded 2 million times at an estimated rate of 150,000 times per month and are believed to be the most widely used application server, even above IBM or BEA, according to some industry publications.

The problem as Sun sees it, is that JBoss supports the J2EE 1.3 standard, but seems reluctant to want to go further.

"At this point, I don't think they will pass the test," Saletta said. "We sent an offer to JBoss to get tested and certified. They have been making claims that their product is J2EE compatible, but they haven't done the testing. We're hoping they'll comply because we want to see all of the major application service providers being able to communicate with each other."

Saletta said his assessment of JBoss is that the company won't comply because doesn't implement all of the features of J2EE and has some proprietary issues.

JBoss executives have been accusing Sun of "stonewalling" and airing out the grievances in public.

"The problem has always been that Sun has not reconciled itself to the open source licensing model," JBoss General Counsel Larry Rosen told internetnews.com. "We cannot accept something that is contrary to the LGPL license. The last time we negotiated our non-disclosure agreement, it was more than 3 times more than any price Sun quoted us in past. Sun doesn't know how to compete effectively with JBoss so they are confusing our customers with smoke and mirrors."

Rosen said while the terms of the negotiations are confidential, he did say Sun's price was well under $1 million but much more than JBoss was willing to spend.

Sun says it is trying to make its compatibility issues clear like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

"We don't want fragmentation of the standards, and developers are entitled to know when they are getting J2EE and when they are not," said Saletta.

But Rosen says anyone can claim they are J2EE compatible without talking to Sun or participating in the JCP process and JBoss has no intention on changing its strategy.

Evidence of that is its latest application software (JBoss 4.0), which the company says will move "beyond J2EE" with a goal of making a bare-bones application framework that can adapt to a gamut of components or features. The company says its is currently finalizing the JMX microkernel architecture introduced in the JBoss 3.x series.

Sun is also finding itself in a similar pickle with the Apache Software Foundation, although Sun says it has sponsored Apache group for the JCP and is continuing its efforts to make sure all Apache variants are J2EE 1.4 compatible.

"We want Apache on board and we want JBoss," Saletta said.

As for the consequences of ignoring Sun's call for formal J2EE 1.4 testing and compliance, Saletta stopped short of drawing a line in the sand, and JBoss says it can live without being Sun certified or passing the compatibility test.

"Tell me why I need it and I will sign up," Rosen said.